The State of North Carolina’s crime laboratory has picked up the pace on DNA testing.
It’s still not exactly speedy, but the crime lab run by the NC Department of Justice – which has been criticized in recent years for being too slow in getting DNA results back to law enforcement agencies – is making strides in the right direction according to law enforcement and justice officials.
In recent years, many of those officials have been critical of the long wait times for the results of DNA tests conducted by the lab, but now those times are much better than they were. Getting results back in a reasonable amount of time can be very important in many cases because those results may be needed in a murder or rape case where the stakes are very high.
Guilford County Chief District Court Judge Tom Jarrell said the return times from the state’s labs are a big improvement over what they’ve been in the past.
“It’s much better than it was,” Jarrell said of the time it takes for the state’s crime lab to return DNA results.
A few years back the state’s judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials were vocal about the long delays, but there’s less of that these days. Some law enforcement officials have stories from the past of results taking nearly two years.
Laura Brewer, the communications director for NC Attorney General Josh Stein, said current results don’t take that long.
“Turnaround time for DNA testing is about six to nine months,” Brewer said.
She added that the state lab also works to accommodate law enforcement and justice officials in high priority cases – and that significantly shortens the wait.
“Law enforcement can also request rush jobs for immediate concerns to public safety and those can be turned around even more quickly,” Brewer said.
Superior Court Judge Joe Craig, Guilford County’s senior resident judge, also said there had been an improvement in response times when it comes to DNA results.
Craig added that, while it still may take months to get those results back, that doesn’t usually impede the judicial process because a case such as a rape or murder case may take months or years to get to court – which, he said, allows time for the results to be known. He said it’s rare these days when a murder trial takes less than two years to get to court.
“Now it seems to dovetail pretty well,” Craig said of court dates and DNA test result return times.
“It’s certainly better than it was,” he added. “But it’s not like watching CSI when they send it off and get it back 24 hours later.”